Death Sworn by Leah Cypress
Death Sworn #1
Published March 4th 2014 by Greenwillow
When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.
But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.
*An ARC was provided by Greenwillow in exchange for an honest review*
Death Sworn was one of my most anticipated reads of 2014 so I was thrilled when I got a chance to read an advanced reading copy. The cover and blurb both give off a dark and atmospheric vibe and as soon as I saw "assassins" and "magic", I was sold! I was also really intrigued in the prospect of an main character having magic but losing her power, which isn't something I've come across much in my YA reads so I was exceedingly curious to see how everything would mesh together. Unfortunately, this one didn't quite live up to my expectations...
Death Sworn starts up by offering an interesting premise: the MC Ileni is a sorceress (Eeep so awesome!) but there's a twist: she's losing her powers. Soon all her magic will be gone forever and there's nothing she can do about it. So when the Elders suggest that she go live with a band of assassins and take over as their magic tutor, she goes willingly, knowing there's not much else she can do. These assassins live in an underground cave system buried deep within the mountains which consists of a labyrinth of tunnels and secret passages. For whatever reason, I adore stories that have any kind of maze or hidden passageways so the setting here was a major plus! There was a catch to this move for Ileni though: both of her previous successors who went to tutor the assassins died in these very same caves. Yeah. Anyways so this story wasn't all just assassins, magic, and a badass setting; there was a mystery to unravel too! Score. Oh and I forgot to mention one final bit: the Assassins have no clue that Ileni is powerless, and in order to survive amongst them, they can not find out her secret. So add secrecy and suspense to the mix and this sounds like the perfect combination right? So where did it all go wrong??
To be honest, I'm still not quite sure. It's like all the elements were there but instead of blowing me away it all just sort of...fizzled. As lethal as the assassins were made out to be, the overall tone just didn't make things come off as all that dangerous. I mean, I knew there was danger all around but I never felt immersed in it, if that makes any sense. The heroine Ileni was brave and likeable enough, but similarly I never got behind her 100%. I couldn't connect to her for whatever reason and it left me feeling a bit apathetic I guess. Her loss of magic was a fresh twist, but in the end losing one's powers read as frustratingly as it clearly felt for Ileni. I think I was hoping for a really cool reveal as to why her powers were going and how she might gain them back but the end result was something of a letdown. The romance aspect developed nice and slow, just the way I like it...but I found that something about it didn't ring true to me, like their pairing didn't really make sense. I guess the heart of my issue with Death Sworn boils down to this: it didn't make me care as much as I would have liked. Maybe showing us flashbacks of Ileni's past, before she came to the caves could have helped in terms of context and that might have also helped me in terms of relating with the MC. We meet her at such a turning point in her life but it simply doesn't come across. I think if there would have been more tangible ties to her past, it may have helped the story along.
That being said, I was willing to let most of my issues slide, if the ending of Death Sworn managed to surprise me and/or blow me away. Well, the ending did surprise me... but it also sort of confused me and weirded me out a little. o_O It felt odd and frankly underwhelming. The author kept alluding to a larger plan but by the time the big reveal rolled in; it just didn't fit in the way I'd been hoping or expecting. I wonder if again, further insight into "The Master" and his "masterplan" could have cleared things up...maybe having a bit more narrative from his perspective but I'm not sure it would have taken care of all my concerns. The bottom line is that Death Sworn simply failed to deliver for me. I almost gave it a 3-star rating but when I compared it to my recent 3-star reviews, it didn't quite measure up. There was a lot of potential here but it didn't pan out. Hopefully, the sequel will resolve some of these concerns. If there's good buzz I'd consider reading the sequel but at this point I'm not quite sure I'd go on with the series.
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars